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Articling and Principal's Expectations

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Started articling recently (late) at a PI firm (plaintiff's side).  Not sure how "normal" my experience is but I was assigned some files to go over and simply told to draft statements of claim and defence without any guidance.  It is not something that is taught in law school.  I am trying to look at precedents but feel somewhat anxious given my lack of experience.  Is this fairly typical as far as expectations go?  What is the best way to handle a situation like this?  Thanks.

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This is typical and I had to do the same. Look at your firm's precedents and you will do fine, it's both feet first into the fire (welcome to articling). 

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Step one: ask the principal what his or her best sample statement of claim is for the particular case is assigned (what case is similar for me to look at to model this statement after?)

 

Step two: draft the statement of claim based on the same format and structure used in the sample pleading. Change the names, dates, relevant facts as appropriate. 

 

Step three: look at some other, similar statement of claims to make sure you've included all the relevant claims in the one you're working on.

 

Step four: highlight any sections you're unsure about.


Step five: send to the principal for his or her final review.

 

Step six: ask what you forgot to include, review the changes made by your boss, improve for next time.

 

Step seven: rinse and repeat.


You're not expected to be perfect. Just use your common sense and try to replicate work product that's already been deemed acceptable and filed in prior cases. Ask questions like "Why do you include this particular section? Why did you include this for this case and not this section for a similar case? There's no perfect science to this type of work and the principal might just say, oh ya, I shouldn't have included that in the last one. Just do your best and ask for feedback. 

 

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You’re not going to be judged by what you produce but rather by your ability to learn quickly, comprehensively, and retain that information. 

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Welcome to the practice of law where 90% (or more) of what you learned in law school does not matter. 

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Yes - ask for precedents from your law firm.

Highlight any parts you are unsure about it.

Ask your principal or another lawyer to review it and ask questions. 

It's a good initial learning tool to draft SOCs and SODs because you well get familiar with the originating process for a claim. 

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Articling at a PI firm too. Use the precedents and ask questions when you have no idea what's going on. 

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Always bring a notepad/notebook with you wherever you go in the office. Have a notepad ready when you are summoned by an associate. It is no different than taking notes from a client interview.

Get into a habit of writing down notes when others are speaking.

My point is: you learn fast by learning how to listen first. Other associates would be more willing to help you if you show that you are willing to write down what they say. 

I learned so much from my articles just by writing down conversations about the law from senior associates.

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You weren't taught pleadings in your Civil Procedure class? I remember my class had a whole segment for drafting pleadings and having them critiqued by the practitioners who taught the class (not that it was even remotely a substitute for routinely doing them in practice which is how you actually learn). 

Anyhow, precedents are your most important tool, but you also need to read, understand, and know like the back of your hand the Rules of Civil Procedure on pleadings. Not every unique fact scenario is going to have a perfect precedent for it and sometimes you have to bespoke most of it.

Also when you give a pleading to a senior lawyer for their review, study any edits they make to your work and learn from those edits. I send articled clerks redlines of any work they do for me for that exact purpose (their learning and benefit) and it drives me nuts when they don't look at it and make the same mistakes again.  

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On 10/8/2019 at 4:38 AM, Wenis said:

You weren't taught pleadings in your Civil Procedure class? I remember my class had a whole segment for drafting pleadings and having them critiqued by the practitioners who taught the class (not that it was even remotely a substitute for routinely doing them in practice which is how you actually learn). 

That actually sounds pretty useful. My civ pro class was just a retired practitioner literally reading the AB rules of court to us word for word, for 90 minutes straight. Every bit as fun as it sounds. Do you mind my asking which law school you went to?

Also:
I am looking at the wenis, and I am not happy!!

(sorry)

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29 minutes ago, ZappBranniganAgain said:

That actually sounds pretty useful. My civ pro class was just a retired practitioner literally reading the AB rules of court to us word for word, for 90 minutes straight. Every bit as fun as it sounds. Do you mind my asking which law school you went to?

Also:
I am looking at the wenis, and I am not happy!!

(sorry)

I had a similar experience in my civ pro class (i.e. had to draft at least one of every type of pleading) with review by a practitioner.  I went to Queens around 10 years ago.

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Posted (edited)

^^^^ still how they do it at Ottawa.

Edit: Oops, I was referring to someone reading the Rules at you.

Edited by easttowest
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Our civil procedure class was decently fun. As far as drafting, we drafted the usual pleadings and then put together a motion record. Every week in second term was spent with a local member of the civil lit bar doing direct/cross examinations, introducing evidence, witness prep, and finally a four-hour trial.

To get back on track - you can also use Westlaw and search through the pleadings to find accurate precedents if you can't find any at your firm.

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3 hours ago, ZappBranniganAgain said:

Do you mind my asking which law school you went to?

 

Dal

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On 10/9/2019 at 3:01 PM, TdK said:

Our civil procedure class was decently fun. As far as drafting, we drafted the usual pleadings and then put together a motion record. Every week in second term was spent with a local member of the civil lit bar doing direct/cross examinations, introducing evidence, witness prep, and finally a four-hour trial.

To get back on track - you can also use Westlaw and search through the pleadings to find accurate precedents if you can't find any at your firm.

Wow, that's useful.

My civil procedure class was the Prof simply regurgitating the Rules word for word. 

We learned no practical skills with respect to actually drafting the pleadings. 

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On 10/5/2019 at 8:03 PM, TrialPrep said:

You’re not going to be judged by what you produce but rather by your ability to learn quickly, comprehensively, and retain that information. 

Hahaha I wish...certainly feels like being judged right away.  Esp when the principal is a perfectionist.

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On 10/8/2019 at 12:19 AM, Aureliuse said:

Always bring a notepad/notebook with you wherever you go in the office. Have a notepad ready when you are summoned by an associate. It is no different than taking notes from a client interview.

Get into a habit of writing down notes when others are speaking.

My point is: you learn fast by learning how to listen first. Other associates would be more willing to help you if you show that you are willing to write down what they say. 

I learned so much from my articles just by writing down conversations about the law from senior associates.

Always had a notepad since day one so I'm good on that front.

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On 10/8/2019 at 7:38 AM, Wenis said:

You weren't taught pleadings in your Civil Procedure class? I remember my class had a whole segment for drafting pleadings and having them critiqued by the practitioners who taught the class (not that it was even remotely a substitute for routinely doing them in practice which is how you actually learn). 

Anyhow, precedents are your most important tool, but you also need to read, understand, and know like the back of your hand the Rules of Civil Procedure on pleadings. Not every unique fact scenario is going to have a perfect precedent for it and sometimes you have to bespoke most of it.

Also when you give a pleading to a senior lawyer for their review, study any edits they make to your work and learn from those edits. I send articled clerks redlines of any work they do for me for that exact purpose (their learning and benefit) and it drives me nuts when they don't look at it and make the same mistakes again.  

We did a basic motion.  And that was in 2nd year of law school.  It's been, well, years since then.  As far as statements of claim/defence, nothing.  No Applications or Actions.

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